Alpha’s Norman Lau is the only Ulster player to be selected in the Irish side to compete in the European Junior Championships in Poland from 26 March to 5 April.
It will also be Norman’s second Europeans as he played in the Ankara tournament last year so he will be keen to improve on his performances on that occasion.
Last year, he went out of the singles in a star-studded competition in the opening round, beaten by Quentin Fillettaz 21-13 21-14 though was much happier with his mixed doubles, partnering Rachael Darragh when they put in a very good performance against the French pair Noblecourt & Delrue 21-16 21-17.
It would have been very easy to have been intimidated by the quality of players competing in the competition. This time around, and along with other members of the Ireland squad, Norman will be hoping to come back home with a better return.
This season has been a difficult one so far for Lau. However, his selection as a member of the team of six, who will compete in Group Seven of the team competition alongside Norway, Cyprus, Romania and the seeded Spain, is further confirmation of his standing within the Irish set-up.
The Alpha lad is certainly being included within what is a young side being developed for the future.
Back in September, Lau lost out to the No3/4 seed Ricardo Silva 11-6 11-8 11-6 in the singles but in the doubles of the Carlton Irish Under 19 Open he came within a whisker of knocking out the No2 seeds Laanes/Saunpere from Estonia 11-8 7-11 11-8 5-11 9-11 partnered by his Alpha clubmate Ross Lightbody.
He’ll be hoping to go one better in the Mixed Doubles this time around partnering Moya Ryan.
Back in September, the duo were seeded No2 and recorded a fine victory over a Swiss pair only to lose in the final to Ireland’s Paul Reynolds and Rachael Darragh 11-2 10-11 5-11 11-9 6-11, who had knocked out the No1 seeds earlier.
In November, Norman lost to the seeded Ricardo Silva who went on to the semi-final - 21-18 18-21 18-21 - in the Portuguese Junior Open and before the year was out was to make an early exit in the Carlton Irish Open to England’s Alex Lane 21-7 21-9.